December 18, 2008
MOSCOW - Russia will toughen adoption requirements for U.S. nationals following the acquittal of Miles Harrison over the death of his adopted Russian-born son, a senior education and social protection official said on Thursday.
Harrison, 49, was acquitted on Wednesday of the involuntary manslaughter of his 21-month-old son Chase (born Dmitry Yakolev), who died of heatstroke after being left in a vehicle in the hot sun for nine hours in front of his adoptive father's workplace in Virginia.
"We are outraged by the court ruling and believe it to be totally unjust and unacceptable," Alina Levitskaya was quoted by the Education and Science Ministry as saying. "It questions the reliability of the U.S. system of protection of adopted children's rights, and will lead to tougher requirements for U.S. nationals in Russia."
Levitskaya said the ministry would demand that authorities in the United States step up monitoring of children adopted from Russia. She said the education ministry and the Russian Embassy in the United States would seek a guilty verdict for Harrison.
"When a tragedy occurs, even if through an involuntary action, a severe punishment should be inevitable," Levitskaya said.
Explaining the ruling, Fairfax County Judge R. Terence Ney said Harrison's conduct did not meet the legal standard for manslaughter, which requires "negligence so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a callous disregard for human life."
"No prison term is going to cause more pain than that which he has already suffered. The only true atonement here can only take place within his heart and soul," the judge said.
Over the last 10 years in the United States there have been approximately 230 fatal cases of parents locking their children in cars on a hot day.
Three adoption agencies, including that which organized Dmitry Yakolev's adoption but failed to inform Russian authorities of the baby's death, were banned from operating in the country in July.
Several calls for tighter controls on adoptions have been made in Russia in recent years over a series of scandals, notably the killing of a two-year-old girl from Siberia by her adoptive mother in the U.S. The woman, Peggy Sue Hilt, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in May 2006 for beating the child to death.
Around 120,000 Russian children were adopted both in Russia and abroad in 2007, a 6.4% increase on 2006, according to the Science and Education Ministry.
For more on the abused adoptees, see: